During the GEN summit, GEN International and Global Campus became partners. In this report, Leila Dregger shares about the last Global Campus gathering from July 18th to August 15th, where 30 members and representatives of the base stations of the Global Campus met in Tamera, Portugal, studying and sharing peace knowledge, exploring new skills and experiencing community. While the global crisis threatening their home regions every day remained to be in our focus, they lived in the Solar Testfield of Tamera, stayed in simple accommodations, cooked in the Solar Kitchen, learned practical skills in gardens and workshops, and met in sharing circles.
Every single day, we heard moving stories, listened to songs, tasted the delights of different regions, faced overwhelming joy, love, sadness and empowerment and opened more and more to the possibility of a future without war.
The meeting was a harvest of ten years of friendship and cooperation. After having received support and training for such a long time, the members and representatives could use what they have achieved. With their gathered experience they started to become teachers and advisors to each other, building trust by mutual support and honest sharing.
In this atmosphere the hot topics around community building, core values, love, eros and partnership could be fully addressed. All this led to the feeling that the global community really started to unfold. Building on this consolidated core between us, we took the measure that will enable us to expand our work and to eventually welcome new members.
Where in the world would we be without music? Music turned out to be the universal language. Sound, songs and dances connected us, when the spoken words and their simultaneous translation into four languages failed to conceive the underlying messages, that 30 people from Africa, Middle East, Europe and Latin America had to share. Samba, Dabki and African Rap softened the edges, opened the hearts and made us feel as one – over and over again. During these four weeks we experienced what it means to deeply listen and open to people from another culture. To open to their values and dreams, to their sufferings and urgent wish to make a change. And to find ways to really support each other globally, meet the challenges together, learn from each other and create models for a worldwide alternative.
Making it Possible
In July 2015, the Global Campus initiative had invited representatives from six base stations to spend six weeks together to deepen the peace training and, particularly, the social skills, to form a human base of deep trust among us. The purpose was to support and consult all the base stations in their next practical steps and to create the curriculum, the guidelines and a council for a comprehensive and resilient global peace education.
To make it possible we needed funding. With the support of the Grace Foundation we launched a last-minute crowdfunding campaign to fund all the expenses needed for people from so many places to meet.
Claudio Miranda from the Favela da Paz said: “A vision is very important. In the beginning it seemed impossible to imagine that we would be able to fund six members to travel to Europe. But when we envision being here and sitting as a global community together in a circle, and when we then imagine the flight ticket, the money seems not to be a lot anymore.”
The response was overwhelming. It seemed like a miracle how many people in the world – both friends but also people whom we had never heard of before – supported us by smaller and larger donations and made the meeting possible. We felt it was a huge “Yes” from many parts of the world to the Global Campus.
The Global Campus time started with the GEN summit, the conference of the Global Ecovillage Network in Findhorn/Scotland from July 6 – 10th. However, due to the strict visa policy of the UK, only six Global Campus participants could make it to the GEN Summit. Still it was an important step as GEN celebrated its 20th anniversary. With the organisation´s founders present, 250 participants shared their work and elaborated on new strategies of the ecovillage movement.
One of those is the cooperation of ecovillage specialists on emergency situations around the planet, joining forces and using ecovillage expertise and experience to support people in areas of crisis; for disaster relief and refugee camps.
Many important connections could be made during the conference. Above that, the Global Campus became an official partner of GEN. This means that the two organisations will collaborate more intensively, create common strategies and projects in the future, and mutually support their meetings and seminars, and use each others’ outreach platforms. The next step for this will be the Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) in Palestine.
From 18th of July, four weeks of Deep Education Time started in the Solar Testfield of Tamera: Two brothers from OTEPIC/Kenya, six members of the Global Campus Mexico, four from Global Campus Palestine, two participants from Israel, six from Favela de Paz in Sao Paolo, four council members of the Peace Community San José de Apartadó, the biogas expert and urban planner Thomas Culhane from the US, and several representatives of Portugal and the Global Campus team plus their helpers all joined in.
In the Solar Testfield
The group of Tamera´s Solar Testfield was the host for the Global Campus meeting. Here, 40 coworkers of Tamera live in an experiment of self autonomy: they eat what grows regionally and seasonally, cook exclusively with energy provided by the tools of the Sun Kitchen, and develop the Testfield as a model and showcase for sustainable living in terms of water, architecture, energy, and community.
In this environment the participants stayed together: they slept in tents, cooked every day using the biogas digesters and the Scheffler mirror, worked and learned practical skills in workshops and gardens. The groups presented their projects and received consultations from Tamera´s experts, listened to keynote talks about the different areas of building peace models, and had many group meetings and the daily ‘global circles’ together with the members of the Testfield group.
Global Crisis Present
It was an overwhelmingly rich time. We saw friendships emerge among people from a Brazilian slum and the rainforest of Colombia, between farmer activists in Palestine and women initiatives in Mexico, between change makers in Kenya and a biogas inventor from the US. At the same time we had to expand our hearts to bear the pain, poverty, injustice and violence that people have to go through.
While we were meeting on the safe ground of Tamera, we also witnessed the ongoing global crises in the form of challenges and threats against the different base stations. Violence and economic pressure against the peace community San José de Apartadó; a heat wave on top of the constant pressure of occupation for the Hakoritna Farm in Palestine; messages from violence and drug abuse in the Favelas, slums, and environments that they all come from, made us never forget the topics that we are dealing with. Before we worked on solutions together, using the privilege and the creativity that the community opened for us, it was about opening to pain, fear and exhaustion. We listened to people that normally don´t have a public voice. Through them we could hear and feel every day what the globalisation of violence, ignorance and greed is doing to the majority of people, animals, and ecosystems everywhere on the planet.
“It was a time of learning to be humane beings again”, Vera Kleinhammes, coordinator of the Global Campus, put it. And: “We let the power of indignation rise within us.”
Sofia Olhovich from Mexico, who had lived for many years with the Zapatista movement: “With being in Tamera, I realize that the universe has given me the chance to come and heal my war wounds, to discover that violence and systemic war that rules the world has impeded my life and happiness. In this brief rehearsal of community life for the past weeks, I have come to find happiness again, through taking care of water, land, and people in our daily work. I have also found the confidence to sit and share our truths of the fears and injuries that we carry. I have come to Tamera to become conscious.”
Building a Basis of Trust
While studying peace knowledge every day, we connected on many levels to a comprehensive vision of the planet once we, as human beings, regain our source of trust and togetherness. Four weeks in Tamera that were, for most participants, the chance to step out of the mindset of resignation and powerlessness, and to step into the possibility of change.
We listened to detailed presentations of the different base stations. Each of them received a consultation from the present experts, trying to improve the situation of water, food, housing, or energy.
In the end it was not mainly the practical skills and solutions that made the time so rich and empowering: it was the experience of community. After ten years of Global Campus, the members have dared to be teachers and advisors for each other, mutually benefitting from their experience. More and more they feel empowered by the emerging trust, speaking out clearly and giving each other honest feedback, including constructive criticism. We saw that by living in crisis regions and managing to create a successful ecovillage model, the experiences turn people into experts for every other person or group in similar situations. This felt like a leap in the evolution of the Global Campus.
“The Global Campus is a group of people with pure souls and big hearts who are trying to change the world for the better, people who bring in their own experiences and lives with the many particular problems from their regions, and also many solutions!” Pikeno from the Favela da Paz.
Politics and Globalisation:
The first days were dedicated to the politic topic: globalisation and information with teachings from members of the IGP (Institute for Global Peace Work). We shared and listened to the ways that the globalisation of war and violence has affected the lives of all of us, how it has become a system that is working similarly in every part of the world, destroying and exploiting forests, natural water systems, original communities and the souls and minds of many beings. But globalisation also gives us the power to connect, to understand each other globally and to form alliances for peace.
“Find the connection of the world that we as human beings have created with the divine world where we have come from. Then we will have access to everything that has been created: water, energy, food – and love.” From the notebook of the participants of the Peace Community.
During two days we heard about the connection of media and war, about constructive journalism and the power of information, how we can use this powerful tool to connect to a global movement and spread knowledge and information for a positive transformation. In a writing workshop we learnt to write peace news.
Inner and outer Peace Work:
Every day we touched the topic of inner and outer peace work. We saw that we cannot create peace around us as long as we are full of hatred and pain. We have to learn to forgive, we have to find ways to regain strength to see the pure core even in those who have hurt us. It was amazing how much those people were able to forgive, who had suffered a great deal, whose relatives had been murdered or who had been sentenced to prison terms due to wrong accusation.
“Feel the pain, don´t identify with it, but try to be in service for the community.” From the notebook of the participants of the Peace Community.
In a three day Love School with Sabine Lichtenfels, we studied about the strong force of longing, love, and eros. Diving into the topic of love and community is very delicate, especially in a group with diverse cultural backgrounds. In her opening speech, Sabine Lichtenfels made sure that it is not about imposing a value system. She said “War comes from world views, peace comes through contact.”
All of the participants used the spaces to share about their inner experiences. We were shaken by the pain that violence born from out of jealousy has loaded on many communities of the world. We elaborated on social structures and ethical guidelines that we need regardless of which culture we live in, if we don´t want this force to control us, but to nourish us instead.
“True love carries in it the secret of non-violence. For a culture of peace we need a balance between men and women.” From the notebook of the participants of the Peace Community.
In these days, it was also about women’s empowerment. A group of women met every day to share and empower each other.
Philip from Kenya said: “If you want to reach out to a village, you have to reach the women.”
Rubi from the council of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, says, “My wish is to show the women that we can take on an important role in our community. Women have a lot of knowledge, but often we are afraid to speak publicly. I want to help to change this in my community.”
In the week of ecology we learnt that energy, water and food are freely available when we learn to cooperate with nature. Apart from the theoretical lectures, each project had the chance of a single consultation with some of the experts. And we worked practically to improve our skills in different areas: some of us dug Swales for Water Harvesting with Bernd Müller and Marcus Dittrich from Tamera. Others who already had built Biogas Digesters for cooking worked with Thomas Culhane from USA and explored how they can be improved. Another group learnt to collect and process regional seeds with Rita Moureno from Tamera. Bee Bowen from the UK gave a workshop to use ancient and still very effective methods of clay and lime building. For one week, Jürgen Kleinwächter from Germany taught some participants about his groundbreaking solar inventions for the future.
“The animals collaborate with us improving the eco-systems if we collaborate with them.” From the notebook of the participants of the Peace Community.
During two days we elaborated on the economy: How do we finance our projects? How do we create a just and sustainable economy in our community? Benjamin von Mendelssohn accompanied the process of studying the laws of an economy that are based on war and exploitation, but is in service of life.
Fabio Miranda, Favela da Paz: “If you do a good thing you attract good. Money is an energy. When used for good only good things can happen.”
In spite of the many topics we covered, the main aim of the four weeks was learning what it means to create community: What kind of personal decisions and communication skills are needed so that, after ages of fear and violence, trust can once more prevail among people? How do we support each other to overcome fear, jealousy and competition? And how can we create communities of mutual support, truth and responsibility that help us to become the beings which we are meant to be? On a daily base we came together with the Testfield group to a “Global Circle”, facilitated by Barbara Kovats: a place to share, to listen deeply and to give truthful feedback from the place of support.
“The criteria of whether a thought or action was right or wrong is: has it created peace in myself?.” From the notebook of the participants of the Peace Community
The participating groups were:
San José de Apartadó / Colombia
Global Campus Palestine – Hakoritna Farm
OTEPIC / Kenya
Favela da Paz / Sao Paulo / Brazil
Chichihuistan / Chiapas / Mexico
Next Steps of the Global Campus
During the four weeks the participants elaborated on ideas, how the Global Campus can create a solid base to maintain the trust and the depths of the collaboration and, at the same time, integrate new members. They agreed on some important points:
The first was to elect a Global Campus Council. At every base station there will be at least one committed person. Once a month they shall meet in a skype conference to share about the development in the different projects and make new decisions.
The elected council members are: Philip Munyasia, Fayez Taneeb, Aida Shibli, Vera Kleinhammes, Claudio Miranda, Monika Hösterey, Rocio Reyes, and Sirly from the Peace Community.
Above that, they will offer training in “Capacity Building” which means to invite each other to relevant seminars. In these seminars, different members will be the teachers and share their skills.